Or: An exploration of Dick Cheney's recent daydreams
President Bush announces the news to the nation on May 24, 2006, immediately following the East Coast airing of the finale of “American Idol.” He appears in military fatigues and, for some reason, spurs. Behind him, an oversize Osama bin Laden “Wanted” poster, with the word “LIQUIDATED” stamped on the terrorist mastermind’s face. The camera pulls back to reveal that the president’s East Room audience is in fact made up entirely of firefighters. The Marine band plays “Stars and Stripes Forever” as the president speaks, forcing Bush to address the room, and the nation, through a bullhorn.
“America has won the war on terror,” Bush shouts. “Tonight, I am proud to say, Osama bin Laden is in hell.” The president explains that the terrorist mastermind was “taken out” by American forces in Afghanistan, along with the entire senior leadership of al-Qaida. Crowds spontaneously gather in celebration outside the White House, with handmade signs (“THESE COLORS DON’T RUN,” “LET’S ROLL”) in plain view of cable news cameras set up beforehand according to a White House communications office suggestion. A professional-quality sound system blares Lee Greenwood. Then, fireworks.
Thrilling night-vision footage of a daring firefight in a labyrinthine cave is immediately provided to news channels. All of them air it, without noting that the video was edited by the Pentagon prior to release, and its contents unconfirmed.
In background briefings to national security journalists, the Pentagon credits the kill to one lone unnamed but slightly Schwarzeneggerian special forces officer acting on intelligence procured by one lone unnamed but remarkably Jack Bauer-like CIA officer who personally “interrogated” the al-Qaida courier until he revealed bin Laden’s whereabouts.
One senior administration official speaking on deep background reveals the courier was interrogated instead of monitored and trailed because of credible intelligence indicating an imminent attack — possibly biological or nuclear — on an unknown American landmark.
Files on bin Laden’s captured cellphone reveal him to have been in constant communication with al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a Pentagon source.
Editorial writers at most major U.S. newspaper proclaim a second moment of harmony to rival the first one directly after 9/11. Once again, there are no Republicans and Democrats, just Americans.
The following day, the president flies to New York where he gleefully models a profane anti-Osama T-shirt sold by a ground zero-area vendor. The photo makes the front page of the New York Post under the headline “LAST LAUGH.” Bush proclaims a “National Day of Celebration” and gives everyone the following Monday off from work.
The Guardian notes that British Ministry of Defense officials cannot confirm any details of the Pentagon’s story.
Newsweek magazine puts Donald Rumsfeld on the cover, naming him “Washington’s King of the Comeback.” (Time goes with a write-around feature on the American Commando.) To combat Rumsfeld’s sudden popular resurgence, Condoleezza Rice aide Jim Wilkinson instructs Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley to ask Secretary Rice whether the death of bin Laden makes her more likely to mount a presidential run in 2008. Rice’s demurrals do nothing to end gleeful cable news speculation that she’ll run against Hillary (and win) in 2008. Chris Matthews can barely contain himself.
Mainstream journalists join a chorus of Republicans and right-wing commentators in jeering and mocking liberals casting doubt on the official story of bin Laden’s death. Those with reservations, based on actual evidence, about the official story are compared to Truthers by Richard Cohen, Joe Klein, Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and just about everyone else.
A month later, a BBC investigation reveals that bin Laden’s death cannot be confirmed and the entire story as presented to the American media was most likely false. The American press, reluctant to “politicize” the death of bin Laden in the face of overwhelming national support for the president, is very cautious in reporting “new information” out of Afghanistan.
Well after the 2006 midterm elections, leaked memos prove that high-ranking U.S. military commanders warned the White House that the story that OBL had died in a U.S. raid was false and the rumors of his death elsewhere were still unconfirmable.
The next year, a book reveals that the crowd outside the White House the day of the announcement was made up mostly of off-duty Republican congressional aides, lobbyists and political consultants. (None of the firefighters present were from New York.)
In 2007, the Washington Post’s ombudsman and managing editor agree that printing the inaccurate story provided to them by administration officials was the right thing to do. “Each piece had multiple, credible sources,” the M.E. explains, naming none of them.
“We may never know the full truth about the ‘death’ of Osama bin Laden,” Time magazine writes shortly after a Senate committee investigation into the administration’s exaggerations and falsehoods is unable to issue a final report due to a partisan split. While “it seems certain that media accounts of the mission were distorted,” the liberal bloggers and foreign news outlets that exposed the distortions are almost certainly “guilty of exaggeration themselves,” with their claims that the Pentagon “manipulated information.”
President Bush wins a third term.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Biden cracks Obama teleprompter joke
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11